There is an opinion that in iPhone apps, there’s no point in placing the Back button on screens that are directly accessible via the main navigation menu (at the bottom) – because the button just leads to the main screen, which can be reached with one click on the menu.
On the other hand, the apparent convention is to have the button on these screens, the same as any other screen.
Are there any Apple guidelines concerning this? Or any other authoritative sources?
The iOS HIG doesn’t specifically say about the back button on the directly accessible screen, however, just because it happens to be possible to get back to the main screen via the main menu, that doesn’t mean that’s the best way to do it.
While in the app, returning from deeper screens using the back button should stop at the main screen otherwise you’d go back, back, back – oh! No back button! Context switch – Think – How do I get back to the top – I guess I’ll have to use the main menu button.
So I think it should be there.
Usually when you go to a new page on the iPhone, the new page swipes in from the right, giving a sense that you’re moving forward. The mentally natural way to go back to the previous page is to move backward via the back button. It’s quicker to use the back button than to parse the 4+ menu items for the right item that would take them back to the previous page. 1 button VS 4 buttons – 1 button wins.
Benefits of each option:
Keeping the back button:
- Consistent with other pages in this app
- Consistent with a very familiar pattern on this platform
- Consistent behaviour with similar patterns on other interfaces (e.g. the ever-present back button on a browser).
- From any page, users can get back as far as they want using just one button
Removing the back button:
- It could be argued that it removes clutter. However, by creating a conspicuous absence that isn’t on other pages, with something very familiar noticeably disappearing on some page transitions, you’re as likely to actually increase the cognitive effort required to process that page, and distract them with something appearing and disappearing for reasons unrelated to their task.
- Two buttons on the same page would have the same function, and it could be argued that that removing duplication or redundancy is always a good thing. This isn’t always true: this misconception is dealt with very well at Is it frowned upon to allow the user two different options to perform the same action?
So, that’s four benefits for keeping it, and the two apparent benefits for removing it don’t stand up to scrutiny.
Therefore, keep it.